If you did not know better, you’d think House Republicans were trying to sink President Trump.
We had the fake “unmasking” scandal, including a clandestine visit to the White House by Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.). It turned out to be a dud, revealing that Nunes was a dull-witted cohort of the president.
Then came the Nunes memos. Hey, we’ll create a scandal by pretending that the Justice Department and the FBI lied to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court about the origins of the Steele dossier! Democrats would never fill in the blanks to show that is false or that the Carter Page FISA warrant did not launch the Russia investigation! Wrong and wrong.
Then came the dopiest idea of all — threaten to subpoena the James B. Comey memos and then charge Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein with contempt when he refuses. Did it dawn on them that he would hand them over and that they would match almost identically with everything Comey has said or written? Apparently not. This crowd has blown itself up more times than Wile E. Coyote.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) and House Intelligence Committee Chair Nunes, for reasons known only to them, thought the memos’ release would be helpful to Trump. Wrong. The Comey memos released to the House and immediately leaked contain, it is fair to say, not a single helpful fact for Trump.
To the contrary, Comey’s attention to detail and perspicacity bolster his own credibility. It is all there — the president’s rambling monologues, obsession with the alleged “pee tape,” attempts to lean on Comey to let Michael Flynn off the hook, demands for loyalty and so on. The only “surprises” — the claim that Vladimir Putin told Trump personally that Russia has the most beautiful hookers, Trump’s frustration with Flynn for not making certain his first call to a foreign leader was …. drumroll, please … Putin — reinforce the image of a narcissistic, attention-challenged president who really has no clue how to conduct himself. Trump’s repeated denial that he used prostitutes, or denial that he even spent the night in Russia (an assertion contradicted by his former bodyguard Keith Schiller), suggests what worries him the most.
Unrelated to the Russia investigation but equally interesting — and bracing — is Trump’s obsession with leakers and his expressed desire to lock up reporters. Comey quotes Trump as saying, “They spend a couple days in jail, make a new friend, they are ready to talk.” This is the man who took an oath to uphold the Constitution.
Others in Trump’s circle come off poorly as well, including the hapless former White House chief of staff Reince Priebus. The Post reports on an early meeting:
[Priebus] asked the FBI director “if this was a ‘private conversation.’ I replied that it was,” Comey recounted in one memo.
Priebus then asked if the bureau was wiretapping Flynn, according to the memo.
“I paused for a few seconds and then said that I would answer here, but that this illustrated the kind of question that had to be asked and answered through established channels,” Comey recounted. “I explained that it was important that communication about any particular case go through that channel to protect us and to protect the (White House) from any accusations of improper influence. He said he understood.”
Trump, whose best tactic would have been to deny the memos’ accuracy, instead claimed they exonerated him (!) because Comey did not say in the memos the word “obstruction” nor claim he was intimidated. Is someone going to break it to Trump that obstruction of justice is based on his corrupt intent; the mind-set of the person being obstructed is irrelevant.
The memos are damning for what they do not contain. Trump never expressed concern about Russian interference with the election. While he wanted to go after reporters, he never expressed any desire to pursue WikiLeaks, punish hackers, protect the U.S. election system or search for any American collaborators.
Whatever the House Republicans thought they were doing, the release of the memos confirm (at least) four things: Trump tried to lean on Comey in inappropriate ways designed to interfere with the normal operation of the criminal-justice system; Trump is every bit as irrational and unhinged in private as we suspect; Trump is frightened that the salacious dossier allegations might be proved true; and Trump cares not at all about protecting American democracy. Great work there, congressmen.